Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples. “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees are the authorized interpreters of Moses’ Law. So you must obey and follow everything they tell you to do; do not, however, imitate their actions, because they don’t practice what they preach. They tie onto people’s backs loads that are heavy and hard to carry, yet they aren’t willing even to lift a finger to help them carry those loads. They do everything so that people will see them. Look at the straps with scripture verses on them which they wear on their foreheads and arms, and notice how large they are! Notice also how long are the tassels on their cloaks! They love the best places at feasts and the reserved seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them ‘Teacher.’ You must not be called ‘Teacher,’ because you are all equal and have only one Teacher. And you must not call anyone here on earth ‘Father,’ because you have only the one Father in heaven. Nor should you be called ‘Leader,’ because your one and only leader is the Messiah. The greatest one among you must be your servant. Whoever makes himself great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be made great.

Matthew 23:1-12

The Problem with Religious Leaders

Here, Jesus turns a baleful gaze towards the religious leaders of the time. I have experienced this problem in my own life, in the church of my youth. We had a wonderful, dynamic, charismatic pastor who built that church from the ground up in a remarkable fashion. For a time, our church was the fastest growing one the United States and we were featured on the cover of Time Magazine for it (that was a much bigger deal then than now!).

Shortly thereafter, our pastor was caught in an unbelievable sex scandal, and he was brought to ruin for preying on many single, pretty women of the congregation. This was a devasting failure that was hard to understand. If any good can be said of it, the truth remains that even though he failed us all, he did bring many to Christ and many closer to Christ beforehand. 

The situation is like what Jesus describes in today’s passage. Jesus describes leaders who were failures, really, yet they remained the “authorized interpreters of Moses’ Law. So you must obey and follow everything they tell you to do; do not, however, imitate their actions …” 

The sacramental power wielded by the leader, the priest or rabbi, isn’t his. It does not spring from within him, it springs from God. This is how deeply flawed men can still be effective on Sunday, how people they marry, bury, or baptize can rest assured the sacraments are still valid even if the man performing them is found to have stumbled and fallen. 


 

Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you. Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you.”

Luke 6:36-38

BOLDGRID

hogarth judges


JUDGE NOT LEST YOU BE JUDGED

Bishop Barron’s commentary here is worth quoting in full:

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus call us to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Mercy or tender compassion (chesed in the Hebrew of the Old Testament) is God’s most distinctive characteristic. Saint Augustine reminded us that we are, by our very natures, ordered to God. But since God is tender mercy, “having” God is tantamount to exercising compassion, being merciful ourselves.

And attend to what Jesus says next, “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Sop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you.” According to the “physics” of the spiritual order, the more one draws on the divine life, the more one receives that life, precisely because it is a gift and is properly infinite. God’s life is had, as it were, on the fly: when you receive it as a gift, you must give it away, since it only exists in gift form, and then you will find more of it flooding into your heart.

If you want to be happy, Jesus is saying, this divine love, this chesed of God, must be central to your life; it must be your beginning, your middle, and your end.

Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain, where they were alone. As they looked on, a change came over Jesus, and his clothes became shining white—whiter than anyone in the world could wash them. Then the three disciples saw Elijah and Moses talking with Jesus. Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “Teacher, how good it is that we are here! We will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He and the others were so frightened that he did not know what to say.

Then a cloud appeared and covered them with its shadow, and a voice came from the cloud, “This is my own dear Son—listen to him!” They took a quick look around but did not see anyone else; only Jesus was with them.

As they came down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has risen from death.”

They obeyed his order, but among themselves they started discussing the matter, “What does this ‘rising from death’ mean?”

Mark 9:2-10

THE TRANSFIGURATION

Mark talks of the Transfiguration of Christ in terms of a metamorphosis. A change comes over Jesus and he takes on a form that his disciples haven’t seen before. Bishop Barron compares the change that came over Jesus here as a New Testament version of the burning bush. This is Jesus’ divinity shining forth.

In his divine form, Jesus frightened and bewildered his disciples. He had to revert to human form to be around them comfortably again. It is then that Jesus reveals to them for the first time that he is going to die and rise from the dead.

This mysterious and divine nature of his is the backbone and the hope of our faith.


 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

LOVE YOUR ENEMY


Loving your friends and family is easy. How can you love an enemy, for he will not return it? Jesus exhorts us to a more perfect kind of love, one that goes beyond the self. His love of the word that had rejected him is what started his mission and inspired the grace he offers to us. 

L

I say to you that unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the legal experts and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift. Be sure to make friends quickly with your opponents while you are with them on the way to court. Otherwise, they will haul you before the judge, the judge will turn you over to the officer of the court, and you will be thrown into prison. I say to you in all seriousness that you won’t get out of there until you’ve paid the very last penny.

Matthew 5:20-26

 

RECONCILE WITH YOUR BROTHERS


The focus today is on reconciliation with your brothers and respectful treatment of brothers. We must find reconciliation with our brothers before we can place our gift upon the altar.

Bishop Barron notes that the change of heart and mind required for this recalls the Greek word, metanoia, used often by the gospel writers. This word is most often translated into English as ‘repent’, which carries a moralizing overtone. In the Greek sense of the word, however, the more important overtone is one of fundamental change at the personal level. 

With Jesus, a new state of affairs has come. Your perceptions and habits need to change at a fundamental level. This the true repentance, the true reconciliation. 

 

“Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread? Or give them a snake when they ask for fish? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:7-12

BUILT WITH BOLDGRID

knock and the door will open

KNOCK AND THE DOOR WILL BE OPENED


AN EXORTATION TO PRAYER

Here Jesus inspires us with encouragement and confidence to pray. Bishop Barron’s homily devotes itself to the point that you don’t always get what you want, or at least get it right away. To that I’d say, “Oh, but you do!” 

In a previous Lenten reflection, Jesus already observed that God already knows what you want and what you need beforehand. So the articles of petition aren’t really the important thing, are they? Jesus in today’s reflection speaks of reciprocity. You knock, then somebody must open the door. You ask, then somebody must answer.

When you pray you focus on God and grow nearer to Him. By the principle of reciprocity, He also comes nearer to you. What an amazing reward for prayer!  

 

The crowd grew larger and larger. Jesus said, “The people who live today are evil. They ask for a miracle as a sign from God. But no miracle will be done to prove anything to them. The only sign will be the miracle that happened to Jonah. Jonah was a sign for those who lived in Nineveh. It is the same with the Son of Man. He will be a sign for the people of this time. “On the judgment day, you people who live now will be compared with the queen of the South, and she will be a witness who shows how guilty you are. Why do I say this? Because she traveled from far, far away to listen to Solomon’s wise teaching. And I tell you that someone greater than Solomon is right here, but you won’t listen! “On the judgment day, you people who live now will also be compared with the people from Nineveh, and they will be witnesses who show how guilty you are. I say this because when Jonah preached to those people, they changed their hearts and lives. And you are listening to someone greater than Jonah, but you refuse to change!”


Luke 11:29-32

A COUP FOR THE NINEVITES


A SUBHEADING

Jesus expresses his exasperation with the Hebrews of his day. Here, he compares them unfavorably with the people of Nineveh and a southern queen (the Queen of Sheba). Sheba was a kingdom to the south of Judea, maybe in today’s Yemen or in today’s Ethiopia. Nineveh was an exceptionally large and powerful Mesopotamian city of Gentiles at the time.

God had sent Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, and they did repent. The Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem to learn when she heard about the wisdom of Solomon. But the Hebrews were proving obstinate in their ways in comparison. For anyone in the audience, Jesus’ words must have come as a shock, for the Hebrews believed they were the chosen people of God, how could mere Gentiles come before them?

They lacked faith comparatively, and the articles of faith such as repentance and the aversion to sin.  

 

“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  Pray then like this:

 

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
    On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
    As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil.

 

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:7-15

prayer

THE LORD’S PRAYER


On earth as it is in heaven

Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer in today’s reading, a prayer often referred to as “Our Father.” Of the many things to consider in the prayer, today Bishop Barron selected the union of earth and heaven.

Jesus Himself is a union of earth and heaven, and the resurrection begins the process of fulfilling this coming together. The Risen Christ is the one who brings the justice of heaven to earth. 

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”


 

Jesus and Peter

PETER’S CONFESSION


Who is this mysterious man, this Jesus? 

St. Peter has decoded what nobody had gleaned yet, that Jesus is our Messiah, the Son of God. This confession of Peter, this faith, is what we all share today. It is the faith that not only built the Church but sustains each one of us.

(This passage in Matthew causes a lot of controversy and argument between Roman Catholics and non-Catholics not really about Christ, but about claims on Peter. That shouldn’t be our focus, not today for this Lent. Always, we must focus our eyes like Peter did. He was our example. We focus on Christ!)

 

 

The First Words From Jesus

Mark’s gospel is thought to be the oldest of the four gospels, and today’s passage contains the first words spoken by Jesus in it. 

Bishop Barron focuses on Jesus’ announcement that the moment has arrived, the privileged time or the kairos. This is the long-awaited critical moment of the appearance of the messiah. 

This is a moment of significant importance, one that beckons us to be alert and attentive, and to focus ourselves on its meaning!

In the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic Churches, mass begins with a call from a deacon who says to the priest, “It is the time (kairos) for the Lord to act,” meaning that liturgy is the intersection with eternity.

I happened to have written more about this same passage here.


Jesus Comes to Galilee

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:12-15